4 even more important duties for journalists than reading the paper. The newsroom culture must change. 10/12/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Competition, NewsCulture.
Roy Peter Clark is conducting a curious pledge-drive to keep declining newspapers going, declaring that it is journalists’ duty to buy and read more newspapers. Stranger still, he seems to believe that the failing industry’s status quo is our future, claiming “there is no substitute for the local daily newspaper if I am going to live as a full-blooded citizen in a place that I love.”
Let me suggest 4 alternative, more pressing duties for journalists in these treacherous times, all of which address critical changes that must be made to a newsroom culture that is killing-off the industry. 1) Learn your left from your right. According to a recent Gallup poll, an overwhelming two-thirds of the public now believes mainstream news is biased, and yet the mantra from journalism continues to be that — no — everyone else is wrong, the news media are “objective.” If you insist on defending the erroneous idea that it is even possible for news to be unbiased, please at least defend your position by comparing the premises behind your stories to the historically well-established criteria for left vs. right, something that is not even taught at j-schools. 2) Stop dissing your readers’ taste for sensationalism. No matter what you might prefer, much of news will always be entertainment that has no direct impact on your readers’ lives. Even you are attracted to the sensational and the titillating — it is part of our human nature, and not to be lamented. Take pride from satisfying your customers.
3) Correctly interpret the First Amendment. Get over yourselves. You have no greater rights nor responsibilities than anyone else — everyone, not just you, has the right to the “free use of a printing press” to publish their views. That’s what “freedom of the press” meant when it was written, at a time when there essentially was no “press,” just a scattering of mostly one-man printing shops. And finally, 4) Get out there and compete. Don’t just sit there and buy your own papers, but figure out what your customers want and make technology your friend. Model yourself after people like Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen who are aggressively pursuing new approaches, while realizing most will not work. Unless journalists are loyal to these four duties, news consumers will feel no duty to be loyal in return. Perhaps that’s why they haven’t been.